Veneto beyond Venice: Exploring Northern Italy

posted in: Destinations, Italy, Travel | 32

Veneto beyond Venice Verona Hillsides site2602763.nestifysites.comWhich Italian Region attracts the most tourists?  Tuscany?   No, it’s Veneto, home to the ever popular and breathtaking town of Venice. But is there anything in Veneto beyond Venice? Yes indeed, it’s easy to see why Veneto is the number one tourist destination, it has everything. Great wine with vineyards nestled in amongst rolling hills, magnificent country villas, classic towns with stunning architecture, fabulous food and stunning alpine scenery. So let’s get right into it.

Veneto Facts and Figures

The region of Veneto is in the North East of Italy. Judging by road traffic alone you can tell it is densely populated (like the rest of Italy) but surprisingly, it has large tracts of land, mainly around the alps, where you can find some solitude.

Curious minds want to know, so this prompted research on the industries in Veneto.  We knew tourism would be a large industry here, which of course is dominated by Venice.  Attracting 14 million visitors per year, Venice is the most popular tourist spot in Italy and therefore more tourists visit Veneto than any other Region in Italy. Tourism in Veneto beyond Venice is also popular. The Dolomites (think hiking, skiing and magnificent scenery) also attract their fair share of tourists.  Tourism, however, is not the biggest industry in Veneto.

Industry in Veneto beyond Venice and Tourism

So what is?  I was surprised by the level of manufacturing in Veneto.  I didn’t think anything was made in the west anymore!  Not so. Think Italian fashion.  Textile giants Diesel, Replay and Benetton all hail from Veneto.  And heavy industry brands Aprilia (motor cycles), DeLonghi, Electrolux and Geox all have significant facilities here.  Europe’s biggest eye-wear manufacturer, Luxottica, has its headquarters in Agordo.  And most of this growth in manufacturing has been in recent times.

But manufacturing is the second largest industry. It is in fact agriculture is the #1 industry here.

Agriculture has always been a significant industry in Veneto and this is no surprise.  Outside of the cities it is the dominant activity.  The countryside is lush and green.  During the summer, there was some humidity, it was warm, the soil looked healthy and there was consistent rain.  Everything you need for good growing conditions.  And what are the major farming activities?

Veneto beyond Venice Figs from Rialto Market Venice site2602763.nestifysites.com
Figs are common in Veneto

Corn, wheat, potato, rice, radicchio, asparagus, cherries, figs, peppers and chestnuts are the main crops grown.  Wine grapes for Bardolino, Amarone and Prosecco are everywhere. More wine is exported from Veneto than any other region. Other fruits are also grown and shellfish farming and fishing (diminishing as fish stocks decline) round out the major agricultural products.


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So while leading Italy in tourism numbers, in Veneto, tourism is a distant third in terms of industry in the region.

Cycling in Veneto (and Italy) is a passion

We were stunned by the level of road cycling around Veneto. Mornings, evenings and weekends the roads are crowded with cyclists. Dressed to the nines in their spandex, they cycle hard. On the weekend it was not uncommon to see large groups of riders (almost peloton size) cycling very hard and for long distances. It is an impressive sight.

The main lead up road race to the Tour de France is in fact the Giro d’Italia, which passes through Veneto. Each year, the Ultracycling Dolomatica is held. 600 kilometres up and down 16 passes around the Dolomites. There is a 16000 metre gain. That is twice the height of Mt Everest!

You can find out more information about cycling in Veneto here.

Villas in Veneto

The sheer number of impressive villas (country mansions with large tracts of lawns and gardens) in Veneto is also staggering. You can’t fail but to notice these as you drive around. And you are able to visit some of them.

There are indeed 4,000 villas within Veneto including the Palladian Villas (UNESCO World Heritage) in Vicenza, see below. Between the years 1500 and 1800, a huge number of Venetian “patricians” settled into the countryside of the hinterlands moving out into Veneto beyond Venice. This was Venetian policy at the time as Venice expanded onto the mainland. You can read more about these villas here at the Instituto Regionale Ville Venete.

Some of the better known villas you can visit include:

There are also some great cities and towns around Veneto. And with the exception of Valdobbiadene, you can take a train to any of these cities.

Verona

Shakespeare’s, tragic, play “Romeo and Juliet” is set in Verona. It is a work of fiction and yes you can visit Juliet’s balcony. But this is not the main reason to visit Verona.

Here on Piazza Bra you will find “Arena” which was built in the 1st Century (AD) and is the best preserved Roman Amphitheatre to this day. For the last 93 years, there has been a summer opera season (Festival of Opera). The festival this year includes 6 different operas held over 54 evenings. If you have never been to an opera then go if you have the opportunity. Sitting in a 2000 years old arena watching a famous and lavishly produced opera? It doesn’t get much better than that!

Verona is another town where pedestrians rule with large areas of the town blocked to traffic. It is very pleasant just wandering around the streets taking in the magnificent architecture. Some other great highlights to look out for include:

  • San Zeno Maggiore Church
  • Piazza delle Erbe (there is a nice market contained within the piazza)
  • Ponte Pietra (overlook the river with a drink at the nearby excellent bar or delicatessen)
  • Museo di Castelvecchio
  • Ponte Scaligero

Padua

Veneto beyond Venice Climbing Garden in Padua site2602763.nestifysites.com

Don’t underestimate this town. It might sit in the shadow of Venice but it has its own charms and is well worth a visit.  It is close and easy to get to from Venice or a great place to base yourself and visit Venice.

The historical centre boasts a wealth of medieval, renaissance and modern architecture. It contains another car-less old centre where you can just wander around cobbled streets. You will come across medieval palaces, magnificent churches, vibrant piazzas containing great markets where you can buy what we thought was the best produce in Veneto (at Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Fruta set either side of the stunning 13th century Palazzo della Regione).

Padua is also a very important religious and arts centre. It contains a big university which gives it a very relaxed vibe. The University of Padua is in fact the second oldest university in the world behind Bologna, dating from 1222. Galileo taught at this university. How would you like him as a teacher? It was also the first university in the world to award a degree to a female graduate, Elena Lucrezia Piscopia, in 1678!

Places to visit in Padua include:

  • Scrovegni Chapel
  • Prato della Valle
  • Museo di Storia della Medicina
  • Botanical Gardens

Vicenza

A little further inland from Padua is Vicenza. It is smaller than Padua but contains many charms. One of the world’s great architects, Palladio, has many of his great works in this charming town.

Walk to the Piazza dei Signori. Gaze in awe at the Basilica Palladiana (on the right in the picture below) and the superb Loggia del Capitanio, (the first building on the left in the same picture). The unknown architect (at the time) cut his teeth on these buildings. Many other magnificent works from the architect are in Vicenza and it is here that the UNESCO Palladian villas are located. These are truly magnificent villas overlooking Vicenza. If you are in the area you should visit at least one of the villas.

Not far from the villas is the impressive Santuario di Monte Berico. It is definitely worth a visit and nearby there are great views over Vicenza. Like Bologna, there is a great walk from the city up to the sanctuary using the “porches”. They look like porticos and are religiously-based. They provide great shelter on this rather pleasant walk.

Veneto beyond Venice Piazza Dei Signorini Vicenza site2602763.nestifysites.com
Piazza Dei Signorini

Apart from Palladio, the other great symbol of Vicenza is bacala (stockfish) and baccala (salted stock fish). The “Venerable Brotherhood of Vicenza Bacala” was established to protect the “good, local cuisine of Vicenza” and specifically this dish. There is an official recipe promulgated by the Brotherhood and a prize is awarded each year to the best restaurants specializing in the preparation of Bacala. The Brotherhood also promotes the virtues of the dish in overseas locations. You will find the official recipe on the Brotherhood’s website.

Nothing wrong with a bit of local ingenuity!

You want some wine to go with that Bacala? Here are 3 varieties unique to the Vicenza area:

  • Vespaiolo
  • Lessini Durello
  • Rosso di Barbarano

 

Bassano del Grappa

Another spectacular town! Bassano del Grappa is quite a small town, on the Brenta River. It is another glorious place to just wander around and get lost within the well-preserved defensive walls. The piazzas towards the centre of the town contain very good shops and some excellent restaurants.

It is also quite close to the “prealps” and is where a 10 day hike commences – the panoramic route from the grappa to the consiglio (TV1). We walked a few sections of the trail and it was very pleasant.

As you have probably gathered, it is also the epicentre for the production of grappa. There is a museum in the town devoted to this gem of a drink and you can learn more about it in Italian Wine, Grappa and Tiramisu: Unwinding in Veneto.

Valdobbiadene (Prosecco Route)

The aforementioned hike travels along the ridges of the prealps overlooking this little town, the starting point of the “Prosecco” Route. This area amongst the prosecco vines is just drop-dead gorgeous. However, you will need a car to access the area. As it is the home to prosecco, we will be covering this area in an upcoming post.

Cortina and the Dolomites

Veneto beyond Venice Dolomites Hiking at Tre Cime di Laveredo site2602763.nestifysites.com

Looking for some mountain scenery? The Dolomites are a highlight of Italian (and European mountain scenery)! What a place to hike or just marvel at the spectacular scenery!

The hiking highlight here is to walk around Tre Cime Di Lavaredo, which is well serviced by bus connection from Cortina. In this area there are a number of classic walks including:

  • Tre Cime Circuit
  • Paterno Circuit
  • The Paterno Tunnels (expert only)

We combined the first 2 hikes into a “figure 8” hike. It took the better part of a day to complete.

The Tre Cime Circuit takes 3 to 4 hours to complete. It is the classic Dolomites walk and it is busy with lots of people including family groups. But the scenery is so majestic  the crowds don’t matter. It was just spectacular! And one thing we love about hiking in Europe is there are rifugios along the way where you can buy food and drink (yes you can take a break from your hike and have a beer to contemplate) and just sit down and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Cortina is the main town in the area. There are many hotel and restaurant options here.  The Dolomites are the second most visited tourist area in Veneto beyond Venice.

Treviso

Veneto beyond Venice Canals of Treviso site2602763.nestifysites.com

Surrounded by canals is pretty Treviso. Many people stay here and catch the train to Venice as it is quite close and cheaper to stay. It is surrounded by canals.

There is an impressively, large Duomo here and the area immediately surrounding it contains many good shops. It is another good place to just wander around.

If you have a car, there are a number of “wine routes” you can tour around:

  • Prosecco & Conegliano and Valdobbiadene Hills
  • Piave
  • Montello and Asolo Hills
  • Lison-Pramaggiore DOC

If you intend traveling along any of these routes, there is an excellent booklet entitled, “Province of Treviso – The Wine Routes”. It contains details of the routes along with other sights (villas, churches, great scenery) that you will encounter along the way. Look for it in Information Centers.

We will be talking in more detail about the prosecco route in an upcoming post.

Venice

This is the last stop in our little tour around Veneto Region.

There are so many highlights that Venice deserves its own post, so check out A Perfect Day in Venice.

As great as Venice is, do visit Veneto beyond Venice.  Veneto is a stunning region with lots of different aspects to satisfy the curious tourist.

More about Italy

If you love Italy, you might also enjoy these posts:

The Emilia Romagna Region in Northern Italy: Home to Great Food
Herb Crumbed Fish Recipe inspired by the Venice Fish Market
Italian Wine, Grappa and Tiramisu: Unwinding in Veneto
A Perfect Day in Venice

And to help you plan your trip to Italy:

Traveling in Italy: What you Need to Know

How to Save Money Renting a Car in Europe

To further explore the food and culture of Northern Italy:

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese: the Whole Delicious Story
Modena Market Porcini Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena: more expensive than fine wine?
Tortellini with Sage and Butter Sauce
Italian Antipasto Platter
Penne Puttanesca an Italian Classic
Baked Stuffed Zucchini Flowers or Squash Blossoms
Italian Dinner Party

You can pin Veneto beyond Venice for future reference.  And you might enjoy following our Italy Food and Travel board in Pinterest for great content about Italy from Compass & Fork and everyone else.

Veneto beyond Venice what to do in this lovely region of Northern Italy, Verona, Padua, Dolomites, Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa site2602763.nestifysites.com

Veneto beyond Venice site2602763.nestifysites.com

32 Responses

  1. Interesting that there are so many cyclists, probably a good thing to work off all that lovely Venetian food! I haven’t yet visited but your guide will come in very handy when I do

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment Suze. We were utterly amazed by the sheer number of cyclists here. There is a real culture of road racing and it is something I have not seen before. Quite a spectacle. Cheers….Mark

  2. Doreen Pendgracs
    | Reply

    Great post, elizabeth.

    I’ve never been to Venice, so was unaware of all there is to see in Verona.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Hi Doreen. Thanks for your kind comment. We were also pleasantly surprised as to the quality of food (and much cheaper than Venice).

  3. Julie @ Girl on the Move
    | Reply

    Italy is on my travel bucket list so these are great tips! I made a note to stay in Treviso and then just catch a train into Venice

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Julie. Good idea to stay in Treviso and catch the train in. Yo will save on the accommodation and the train service was regular and good. Padua is another option. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Chris
    | Reply

    Such a comprehensive wrap!

    Well timed too, as we’re likely to have a stop in the north of Italy on our way from Morocco to Albania in October 🙂

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Chris. Thanks for your comment. Good timing for you then. We really enjoyed Veneto and good to see what is outside of Venice.

  5. Katja - globetotting
    | Reply

    I’ve been to Venice and loved it but we went for a weekend trip and never explored any of the surrounding countryside – I want to go back! I had no idea that there was so much to do and see in the surrounding area, thanks for all the fantastic tips!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Katja. Thanks for your kind comments. Yes definitely lots to do in the area and not so many tourists outside of Venice. We enjoyed all the old towns and then there was the Dolomites. Lovely.

  6. karla
    | Reply

    Dolomites would be my pick, the views does seem really nice. Do they allow hiking really early in the morning to beat the crowd?

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Hi Karla. The most popular walk is the Tre Cime di Laveredo circuit. To gain access by car, you pay 24 Euro (expensive) but the walk is brilliant. We arrived about 10am and there was a good queue waiting to pay at the toll booth. It is certainly open by 9am though and it may be earlier. We found it quite difficult to find out opening time information like that in Italy. Hope that helps and thanks for your comment.

  7. Robyn
    | Reply

    I am absolutely besotted with Venice, but now it looks like there’s many more places I need to see next time! Padua looks beautiful! Thanks for the tips 🙂
    http://www.thetechgypsy.com

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Hi Robyn. Yes Venice is so unique. We loved all of the towns we featured in the post. There is so much character and history there. Veneto is a great place to visit. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Lieurene Tran
    | Reply

    I haven’t been to Venice yet but I would love to. I am surprised to see that Veneto is more popular over Tuscany. It’s also amazing to learn that everyone cycles there, I wouldn’t mind cycling through the city though

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Yes people automatically think of Tuscany when they think of Italy. But Venice is a major seaport where the big cruise ships come in so that probably accounts for a lot of the visitor numbers. They are cycling-mad everywhere in Italy. Quite an inspiring sight. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Tami
    | Reply

    When we went to Venice, we actually stayed in a hotel in Padua. Unfortunately we didn’t do much exploring there except to find a restaurant for dinner. I agree that there must be so much more in the area to explore and enjoy, but we had to move on. Maybe the next time I go to Italy…

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Hi Tami. Well as you say, maybe next time. The market in Padua was a delight. It is just an amazing country for the visitor.

  10. The Educational Tourist
    | Reply

    Wow! This inspires another trip back to Italy! We loved Venice but these other spots look like must sees as well! Ah, Bella Italia…now I am daydreaming. 🙂 Thanks for a lovely post.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment. Italy – so much to see and that is just Veneto! There are so many historic, old towns in the area, not to mention the villas, the mountain scenery and the food.

  11. Kimberly Erin @ walkaboot.ca
    | Reply

    I stayed in a small small town outside of venice probably 20 mins a few years ago and really enjoyed myself, it is a really beautiful region, but you are right, the city of Venice is so special that it deserves its own post 😛

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Kimberly, I hope you enjoy the Venice post as well. Italy has so much to see and do (and eat!)

  12. Gabby | The Globe Wanderers
    | Reply

    Great post Elizabeth! This must have taken some time to pull together :). I’d love to explore Veneto, especially after reading this. To have beautiful villages like Padua not far from the impressive vistas of the dolomites is a real treat…. excited for when we can get over and explore! I had no idea that cycling was so commonplace in Italy either.

    Gabby

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Hi Gabby. Thanks for your kind comments. I guess it did take some time to put together but there is so much to see and do in Veneto that it was worth recording it all! The cycling was truly amazing and quite a sight to behold. Elizabeth

  13. So much more to see than Venice and yet that’s all you usually hear about!! Fantastic post to open our eyes about all there is to see in Veneto!! So interesting that agriculture and manufacturing are so big! We look forward to using this post a as a guide through Veneto when we make it to Italy!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thanks for your kind comments. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of manufacturing in Veneto. The “old towns” in the towns we featured were full of interesting sights. It was great to walk around and take it all in.

  14. Gemma Two Scots Abroad
    | Reply

    Tips on less touristy places are always welcome. I dream about Italian food and wine, would love to take a short trip to eat myself silly and then cycle (as you suggest), it’s about balance after all.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      I like your attitude. I think you see more of the real people in smaller towns. Veneto is a great place to to enjoy Italian cuisine, as is the Emilio Romagna region. Thanks for your comment.

  15. Trisha Velarmino
    | Reply

    It’s true what you said: everyone knows Venice but I had no idea about Veneto! This is really interesting as I’ve lived in Italy and never knew about this. Thanks for sharing! Xx

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thank you Trisha for your comment. Although Venice captures all of the headlines it is a place you can stay in for only a few days given the crowds. Padua, Treviso, Bassano del Grappa, Verona and Vicenza are a lot quieter, have better food and are cheaper as well. You’ll have to get back there and check them out!

  16. Sanket D.
    | Reply

    Wow. Such a detailed post. I was very amazed to know that Romeo & Juliet is set in Verona. It is amongst my favorite classics of all time. I have a very dear Italian friend in Florence, hope to visit her someday soon 🙂

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Sanket,

      Yes Italy is full of history. Shakespeare seems to have like it for his stories as well- A Merchant in Venice is another classic. Thanks for commenting.

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